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Old 08-04-2012, 02:50 AM   #31
beat
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good to see the pic's Mike!
i'm back in almaty, and the MCC motors almaty guy's did some welding.
i think their mechanic is a better welder than a mechanic...

heading for russia on monday, thinking about taking the same border but skipping your bad 40 km and doing the other road.
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Old 08-04-2012, 08:43 PM   #32
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I Atyrau now having a rest day in a place with wireless so..... more pics and update coming today.

For my reference as have been moving so much...

Astana to Zhezqazghan (pron. zez-kaz-gan)
Zhezqazghan to Qyzlylorda (meet up with Nick)
Qyzylorda to Aral
Aral to Aktobe
Aktobe to Atyrau (last stop in Kazakhstan)

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Old 08-04-2012, 11:11 PM   #33
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Update 1 - last few photos from Almaty

More about the hotel....

I can recommend this hotel for anyone staying in Almaty, It is not the cheapest, but is a long way from the most expensive. All the staff go out of their way to be helpful and all the reception staff speak good English. They can also arrange police registration for you.....it takes about a day. You have 5 days from entering the country to register with the immigration police or you won´t get out without paying a hefty fine. I suspect, but I´m not sure, that the fine cannot be paid at your exit point. btw, this applies to those entering on land borders. If you fly in and state you will be staying more than 5 days, you will get the second all important stamp on your immigration card as standard. I did the first time.

Back to the hotel....

positives, secure parking for bikes at the back of the hotel. Shopping mall 200 metres away with good pizza and cheap cold beer. As stated, about 700 tenge to the tower in the middle of the mall. A good tourist start point. Not far from the main shopping street and other facilities. Breakfast buffet is fine except to the most picky. Its clean!

negatives, air-con not very effective and hotel beer and food prices are expensive (European prices). The food is good though and there is an outside terrace at street level to eat and drink.

Ali-Baba night spot....short walk from the hotel.




Statue by the river which is about 10 mins walk from hotel


The river itself.....


Me and head cameras from Dogcam



That about wraps up Almaty. Moving on south now towards Qyzylorda.

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Old 08-04-2012, 11:51 PM   #34
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Almaty to Zhezqazghan 700+kms

This seems like a long time ago now but really, its only a few days. I opted to take the longer rout via Qaraghandy (Karagandy) rather than trying the shorter ´'yellow' road as these are long distances and fuel stations cannot be relied on to exist.....even if marked.

There isn´t much to say about this day except the main road, as normal, is more like an english country lane for tarmac quality......on good sections! I arrived about 8pm and was lucky enough to find the Business Centre Hotel on almost the first try. Excellent haven of quiet and safe parking as it is away from everything by a river. There is also an onsite bar and cafe serving good food. Cost for the night was 5500 tenge or about €30. Soome English spoken but menu has an attempt at English. Trat descriptions lightly. Food was tasty and beer was cold. What more does anyone need?

Some views during the day....




As you can see, big horizons and lots of nothing. This is pretty standard for the next few days and 2000 kms. Just nothing!

These desert cemeteries are all over Kazakhstan and vary greatly in size and remoteness.


The Hotel


Rundown and apparently disused sports facilities between the hotel and the road.


Early start tomorrow.....on to Qyzylorda and, it turns out, to meet up with a British rider, Nick Schofield, one of the original group in Almaty.

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Old 08-05-2012, 12:19 AM   #35
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Zhezgazghan to Kyzylorda

This was an interesting and shortish days ride.....or should have been.

On the map, its approx 450kms to Qyzylorda so I filled up my tanks and headed out. This chap I met at the fuel station and, with broken ENglish and German mixed, found out he runs a car repair shop in the town. By the looks of him., a good one too.


This statue was on the outskirts of town


After about 90kms, and having seen nothing, by some good fortune I decided to flag down a passing motorist to ask where the next benzine was. To my shock, he told me it was in Qyzylorda. Judging by my fuel consumption in this heat and on these roads, I was not going to make it. I had no alternative but to turn back.

So, I get back to the very same fuel station at 12:30 having done 180kms and ggne nowhere. This time I filled my tanks to the brim and also my fuel bladder that I had brought, fortunately. This should give me the range I needed provided I kept to about 80kms. The manager came out to talk to me, in very good English. Apparently 'everyone' knows there is no fuel on that road Doh....silly me



Anyway, I left Zhezgazghan about 12:45, on a long slow ride. This next photo is taken at the 365kms mark and my fuel light had been on for 20kms. Time to take of that bladder and refill my tank.


I forgot, I had txt to Nick that there may be a fuel issue and that If I wasn´t in Qyzylorda by 7pm, he should start looking for me. As it turns out, I made it with fuel to spare. BUT, even at slow speeds, I was at least 100kms short on my normal dual tank range. This would normally give me 450kms before the warning light, today I got 340 kms.

We met at the hotel we had agreed at....don´t remember the name but its in my GPS so will edit later.


Shot taken the following morning.

We were only allowed (?) a luxury room between us at 12600 tenge €70) and managed to get some food and drink before turning in. Another long day tomorrow up to Aral and the Aral Sea.

Sorry not so many photos at the moment but there is not much to see and just long distances to ride.

EDIT: I forgot to mention, the first 100kms of tarmac out of Zhezgazghan is not very good. Badly cut up in places by trucks. Then there is a 30kms section of washboard gravel surface, then some more tarmac, then 140kms section of washboard gravel surface with some soft sections, before rejoining some reasonable tarmac into Qyzylorda. I thought this was bad at the time.....but read the next updates !

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Old 08-05-2012, 04:28 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beat View Post
good to see the pic's Mike!
I'mback in Almaty, and the MCC motors Almaty guy's did some welding.
i think their mechanic is a better welder than a mechanic...

heading for Russia on Monday, thinking about taking the same border but skipping your bad 40 km and doing the other road.
This border is quiet. Was a total of 4 cars and me waiting. Not sure if it closes but I arrived at 6pm and no problem, Watch out for the other side though as you lose an hour going into Siberia. I made it to Zmeinogorsk but was late arriving.

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Old 08-05-2012, 04:31 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by AlpineGuerrilla View Post
Wow, Astana seems to be a nice City. But why does it seem so empty? Were your pictures taken in scorching heat at noon? You'd guess the traffic is a mess with 700'000 inhabitants.
Actually, yes, they were taken in the middle of the day and there aren´t many idiots around like me.

However, most of the indoor shopping places with aircon were busy.
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Old 08-05-2012, 04:57 AM   #38
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Kyzylorda to Aral

We didn't rush away from the hotel in the morning, instead, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. I guess we got on the road by about 10:30. This was a mistake as it turned out.

The road to Aral is very tiring at the moment. By next year, it will be a dream new tarmac surface, but right now, the road doesn't really exist. The day consisted of about 5kms of tarmac followed by 20kms of gravel and potholes, alternating for the entire day. Loads of heavy lorries and you take your life into your own hands when overtaking because you simply can´t see passed them due to the dust they kick up.

Unopened sections of tarmac are simply a challenge to all the drivers to get onto it and use it. It was ok for us but we saw numerous lorries stuck in some amazing places simply to save themselves a few kms of slow driving. No pictures of this unfortunately.....we had other things to do, it was hard work.

At one point we came across a solo rider on a heavy loaded Yamaha TDM. Completely wrong for these roads but he was managing remarkably well, albeit slowly. We actually bumped into him a few times as he sometimes caught us up when we stopped. The last time we saw him was at we left Aktobe (later thread) because he was heading out into Russia rather than south to Atyrau.

Here are a few photos....not many again today. Us and the German rider at a short stop.


On the approach to Aral town, I got stopped by the police. All they wanted was to ride the bike. One didn't have a clue so no chance but 1 could ride so I let him have a quick go.

We found the only hotel in Aral....I think, and checked in. There was a party (music dancing) starting up so the owner would only allow us a shared room. It was not a good hotel. most windows were broken BUT the air-con worked, albeit as noisy as an old diesel generator.


There was secure parking, so that was another benefit. I´m struggling to find any more.


The room had a great bathroom!


We bumped into 2 young Canadians (well, from Quebec), 3 guys from Hungary, 1 solo Italian with a CARAVAN !!!!, and a young couple from Almaty on a tour who spoke good English.

We had dinner with the Canadians and the Hungarians and then split as they were catching a night train to Almaty. We ended up chatting to the Italian and the people from Almaty for a while.

The Canadians are the 2 on the left.


In the morning, while shopping for water and finding a cash point, we saw the Germans Yamaha....he made it, but he must have arrived very late.

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Old 08-06-2012, 11:22 PM   #39
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Aral to Aktobe

In the morning we met a couple of. Polish GS riders who had arrived late the previous evening. They were planning on going to the ship cemetary, as we were.....but we missed the turn. Its not obvious and actually (I think) has a no entry sign posted on it, at least, thats the only ´road´I saw.

So, we contunued up the main road, and again, I use the term loosly.


The first 120kms were OK, with a few off-road sections. We bumped into out German/Yamaha friend again at a rest point.

We got to a junction where the GPS´s wanted us to follow the A26 off to the left. They showed the road ahead as óffroad´but the map shows it as the M32. We had been told by the polish riders, and local truckers confirmed it, that the M32 was the best route now as it had been laid to good tarmac.....all the way to Aktobe.

The junction I refer to is just to the west of Yrghyz. There is an air-conditioned transport stop there (no fuel though) and the staff and truckers were very friendly. Cold coke was very welcome and the noodle soup was great.

btw, one IMPORTANT point I forgot. The last fuel available on this road is about 3lms out of Aral with the next fuel just west of Qarabutaq.....about 370-400kms. There are signs for fuel BUT, there isn't any, yet anyway.

Staff and truckers




We pushed on and we had been informed correctly, the tarmac was there and mostly good. We made the fuel stop OK and then did as fast as possible run into Aktobe, arriving around 9pm. We bumped into a guy in a 4x4 who led us to the Aktobe hotel. It looked expensive but we found it was actually quite reasonable at 5900 tenge for a single room. There was also shashlik and Ice cold beer to be had right outside with secure parking at the back. Just what a tired traveler needs!




Next to the hotel...photo from the following morning.


Preparing to leave for Atyrau and, unknown to us at the time, the hardest ´road´day we were to have.

As a side note, we met up with some young English guys doing the Mongolian rally. They had 2 cars and were heading, unsurprisingly for Mongolia. We told them about the roads and the major towns (Almaty vs Astana) so they decided to go to Astana over Almaty. For some reason, they had no idea about registration with the immigration police (5 day limit) and being Friday, and having been in Kazakhstan for 3 days already, they were going to get fined. They decided to do it in Astana and would just have to accept the fine.

As another side note, in this cafe out front of the hotel, even the beer glasses were iced so the beer was super cold. I had to have a few more than usual and eventually got to bed around 01:30. The shashlik was excellent too.

Tomorrow, we move onto Atyrau, our last stop in Kazakhstan.

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Old 08-07-2012, 12:20 AM   #40
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Aktobe to Atyrau

As we were leaving Atyrau, nick spotted what appeared to be an aircraft museum....or something. I actually think it was a display area attached to a military college of barracks of some sort as there appeared to be no way in. Still, we fired off a few photos before moving on.









The road via Qandyagash to Bayghanin was reasonable,. Its after this that it started to go pear shaped.

btw, before I go on, fuel available (main road) in Shubarqadyq, Bayghanin, Saghyz, and Dossor. There may be fuel in Magat but its off to the main road a few kms and a trucker told us not to bother as Dossor was only a few kms further.

The road deteriorated gradually to a bombing range. There were potholes shoulder height across 100% of the road in places and not one hole you can drive through (car/truck I´m thinking off, bikes OK), the holes are staggered. You may get down this road in a seriously high truck/military vehicle, but its only a ´may´. We were the only vehicles that stayed on the road and honestly, a 2 wheeled vehicle is, I´m sure, all that could. All other traffic used a sand road a few hundred meters to one side. Visible in some photos.

This really bad road continues for about 250kms, then is sections after. It really did not want to let us through

About 10kms from Dossor, the road took a detour and started to improve. After we had refueled, the last 100kms into Atyrau was quite good tarmac, which was lucky as it was completely dark by this time.

There are no photos of the really bad sections as we were too busy trying to stay on the bikes. We were so conscious of the time/daylight and the distance, that we rode too fast along much of this road and the bikes suffered. It turned out that I lost a sub-frame bolt at some point, my swing arms collided with the frame quite badly, possibly the same time that my rear sprocket collided with the inset in my X-Tank....and won. I was leaking fuel quite badly.

I didn't find out about this until we made a short stop about 50kms short of Dossor and a trucker pulled up to see if we needed help. Fortunately, I managed to salvage enough fuel out of the x-tank and got it into my main tank that I got to Dossor ok. It was this trucker who gave us the good news about fuel and that there was only about 40kms to good tarmac.



It doesn't look it but that hole Nick is in is over a meter deep.


One upside to this route and being the only people on the road was that we were able to get up close to some of the wildlife. The baby camel in this photoy at first ran off the road with its father while the mother remained. However, it soon returned, without dad. We were about 3 metres away and these animals were not hobbled so probably wild.






There were some sort of post stuck in the ground every km or so and on each on we came across and eagle perched. Most flew off once we got within about 10 meters but one stayed till we got to about 3 meters before leaving. Did not manage to get any still images, but did get one this one on my helmet camera. I will try and post this later.

Anyway, as with everything, the bad road ended and we rolled into Atyrau around 11pm. I had a route to the Green Hotel. It turned out to be in rather a run down area of the town, similar, but not to big, as the Russian tenements in Novosibirsk.. There were large heating(?) pipes running on the surface of the streets and routed in square arches, over the streets.

The hotel itself, however, was really good. It was well air-conditioned, usual bar and food available, and the rooms were comfortable. We were charged about 8000 tenge per night. We decided to stop 2 nights and do some maintenance after the Road of Holes.

This was when I found out a sub-frame bolt had gone missing....I had a spare fortunately. We even managed to wash the bikes a little in some drainage water.....cleanish though.

I took a taxi into the town center on the following day but didn't stay long. Its really spread out and was like a blast furnace in the heat. I snapped a few photos and had some Kazakh fast food consisting of a Lamb burger thing with some fries and coke for 1000 tenge. Not bad at all!

Shopping center with fast food


Smart and expensive hotel nearby


Mosque next to that.


Our Hotel


Later on that day, while preparing for the ride to Astrakhan, the Russian border crossing, and how to get our boots into the Caspian sea, we decided that what I wanted to do in Astrakhan was not the same as Nick. I wanted to stay a couple of days and take a good look around at the ´Kremlin´and the water front while Nick only wanted a quick look around at to move on. So, we agreed to ride together to the city and then part company, maybe to join again later in Auschwitz....one of my later stops on the route back to home.

To be continued....

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Old 08-07-2012, 05:19 AM   #41
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fuel range

amazing report, nice pics and a fantastic journey so far.

What is the max fuel range you desperately needed in Kazakhstan?

Safe ride!!

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Old 08-07-2012, 06:38 AM   #42
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What is the max fuel range you desperately needed in Kazakhstan?
Ideally, 450kms without sweating. Note though that I would normally expect this on my bike but with the heat and type of riding, I was not getting that....about 100kms short on my max range with standard and x-tank combined. Only my fuel bladder got me through on 2 routes. And, it was less than that while I had my 15 tooth front sprocket on! Went back to 16 in Barnaul.
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Old 08-07-2012, 07:12 AM   #43
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Atyrau to Astrakhan

We got away from Hotel Green by about 9 am. The road to the border crossing was not too bad but there were a few sections that could catch you out....potholes, just for a change

The road runs about 2kms or so from the shores of the Caspian sea at one point and we found a track. Starts as gravel then goes to soft sand and then soft, wet mud. I hate soft sand with a passion, mostly because I can´t get the hang of riding it and this track was narrow so not ideal to get speed up safely.


But, we (I mean I as Nick was OK) got there and got out boots wet, very briefly. The bikes wouldn't stand for long on their own without the side stand sinking. btw, in my own defense, I had road sprockets on so was not geared for this sort of riding.


Anyway, we did what we wanted and got back to the road with only 1 more off......me of course!

The border was smooth and the fastest crossing yet. Its worth noting that on the Russian side, its a long way (5kms) between the initial Russian checkpoint and passport control. We stopped several times to discuss whether we had somehow missed it. We hadn't.

After the border, it was a short run to Astrakhan....but through the small town of Krasnyy Yar and a pontoon bridge. It was under repair at the time and very slippy.




We arrived at the Victoria Palace Hotel around 4pm and said our goodbye´s. I was looking forward to a good look around the city tomorrow, A shower, food and beer is all I needed just then.

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Old 08-07-2012, 07:32 AM   #44
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Astrakhan - Photo dump

Here are some of the photos I took walking around the center of the city. Small explanations where I can add something.

Summer Bar at the hotel. Excellent fried pork!


The hotel at night


Shopping area, no cars


This lady was very helpful in setting my phone up on a Russian sim. As I had no Russian ID, she did it in her name. Later, however, despite my checking at the time, she called me and told me that the sim would only work in Astrakhan. Good job it was cheap.


Walking across a memorial park to the Kremlin.




I loved the look of this bench


Some shots of the Astrakhan Kremlin, inside and out.












More town shots including Lenin. Notice the top of the building behind....Soviet 'star'.







The river Volga.....




Lunch Halt along the river



Other sights along the river








Right, early start for Volgograd tomorrow and a new set of rubber for my bike. It will be strange not to vibrate!

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Old 08-09-2012, 10:33 PM   #45
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Found your thread tonite and stayed up till 1:30 am reading it. I hope to ride across Asia next year. Hope you produce some good OSM's. It doesn't sound like anything is cheap over there. I'll be following along with you the rest of the way.
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